Shangri-La Dialogue: Delegates Meet Amid Security Challenges | Political news

The Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD), the key Asia-Pacific security meeting, kicks off in Singapore later Friday with talks expected to focus on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, US-China tensions and the crisis in Myanmar.

It will be the first meeting of the SLD, named after the hotel in Singapore where it is held and organized by the British think tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), since the pandemic hit.

Around 500 delegates from more than 40 countries are expected, with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida expected to deliver the keynote address where he will present Japan’s vision for regional security.

“Over the years, the SLD has provided a valuable, open and neutral platform for the exchange of views on defense and security issues and initiatives,” Singapore’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement on Thursday. a press release before the forum.

Who are the key stakeholders?

Kishida, who will speak at 8:00 p.m. (1200 GMT) on Friday, will be the first Japanese prime minister to speak at the SLD since 2014.

The keynote address “will provide an important statement on Japan’s evolving strategic outlook, the regional repercussions of the war in Ukraine, and how best to deal with the many pressing Asia-Pacific security challenges,” he said. James Crabtree, Executive Director of IISS-Asia. in a report.

Workers prepare for the 19th IISS Shangri-La Dialogue 2022 in Singapore. The event takes place at the Shangri-La Hotel in the city-state [Caroline Chia/Reuters]

NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, said earlier this month that Kishida was to “promise the announcement of a concrete plan by next spring to facilitate a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

He added, “Kishida is likely to reiterate his intention to significantly strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities and further strengthen the Japan-US alliance’s deterrence and response capabilities.”

The next big hitter to take the stage will be Lloyd Austin, US Secretary of Defense, who is due to speak at 8:30 a.m. (00:30 GMT) on Saturday morning. His speech was described as a “major political speech on American defense policy in the Indo-Pacific”.

On Sunday, Wei Fenghe, China’s defense minister, will deliver his speech at 8:35 a.m. (00:35 GMT) and “discuss China’s vision for regional order in the Asia-Pacific”.

Both men have 55 minutes.

What else is on the agenda?

Among other high-profile speakers, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address the forum via video link on June 11 at 4 p.m. (0800 GMT). His deputy foreign minister, Dmytro Senik, must be present in person.

The SLD is meeting more than three months after Russia invaded Ukraine and amid fierce battles in the east.

Zelenskyy has addressed several parliaments and forums around the world about the attack on his country, including in Asia-Pacific.

IISS chief executive John Chipman said Zelenskyy would “show the connections” between strategic theaters in Europe and the Indo-Pacific.

There will also be a session on the situation in Myanmar, where the military seized power from the elected government in February 2021 and has since sought to stamp out any resistance to its rule. Speakers will include the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Myanmar, Noeleen Heyzer, and Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah.

Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe arrives in Singapore for Shangri-La dialogue
Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe arrived in Singapore on Thursday. An expected bilateral meeting with Lloyd Austin should be watched closely [Caroline Chia/Reuters]

What are the main security issues in the minds of decision makers?

The SLD is meeting not only against the backdrop of war in Eastern Europe – where Beijing has avoided outright condemnation of Russian aggression – but amid simmering tensions in Asia-Pacific.

North Korea has carried out a record number of missile tests this year and it is feared it is preparing for its first nuclear test since 2017.

Then there’s the disputed South China Sea and China’s position on Taiwan, the self-governing island it claims as its own.

China has expressed alarm at the growing cooperation between the United States and its Asia-Pacific allies, condemning the AUKUS pact under which Australia must acquire American nuclear submarines, as well as the so-called Quad. Japan’s tougher line on defense has also upset Beijing.

On Friday, the Global Times, China’s public tabloid, gave a glimpse of Beijing’s anger at a more assertive Japan with a highly critical editorial on Kishida’s likely SLD speech.

“Kishida’s role in this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue could not be more evident – fanning the flames on the platform, misleading the agenda, making excuses for his future increase in military spending and coordinating with the United States to expand the latter’s gang in the region under the ‘Indo-Pacific Strategy’,” he said.

China’s own activities in the region have also raised alarm, with Australia expressing concern over its security initiatives in the Pacific islands. Fiji and the Solomon Islands, with which China said it signed a security pact in April, will both attend the forum for the first time, according to the IISS.

“The Indo-Pacific is in the midst of the most important strategic alignment of our time,” Australia’s new Defense Minister Richard Marles said in a statement Thursday before departing for Singapore. “I commend the role this dialogue plays in shaping a robust conversation on the strategic challenges and dynamics of regional security.”

What happens on the sidelines?

A key feature of the in-person SLD is the opportunity for ministers and officials to hold discussions on the sidelines of the event.

One of the most watched bilateral deals will likely be a meeting between Austin and Wei with top defense officials from both countries who are expected to hold their first-ever face-to-face meeting.

The relationship between the United States and China has soured since the last SLD in 2019 amid recriminations over a range of issues ranging from the origins of the coronavirus to Chinese crackdowns in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, its claims in the South China Sea. southern and Taiwan.

However, there are also issues, like North Korea, where the two could work together. Denuclearization talks with Pyongyang have stalled since the failed Hanoi summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in 2019.

“We expect, from our perspective, that the substance of this meeting will focus on managing competition in regional and global issues,” a senior US official told Reuters news agency.

“We are doing everything we can to make this a professional and substantive meeting and we will be talking about very serious issues, but no willingness on the part of the United States to put on a public show.”

Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh will also be at the forum and is expected to meet with Austin and other officials amid renewed concern over China’s activities at the Ream naval base on Cambodia’s southern coast, according to the Singaporean newspaper Straits Times.

A trilateral between Austin, Japanese Defense Minister Kishi Nobuo and South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup is also planned, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK, with a focus on cooperation over North Korea.

Kishi also plans to meet Chinese Wei to “register Japan’s concerns over China’s growing maritime assertiveness and to urge Beijing to exercise restraint”, NHK reported.

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